Field Observations of the Developing Legal Recreational Cannabis Economy in Washington State
International Journal of Drug Policy
Washington State legalized the sale of recreational cannabis in 2012. This paper describes the unfolding of the market regulatory regime in an eastern portion of the state, including field descriptions to illustrate the setting.
We made observations and conducted interviews of the local supply chain comprising a producer/processor, analytic facility, and retail establishments as well as querying the state director of the regulatory board.
Interviews and observations of facilities suggest an overwhelming concern for black market diversion drives state regulatory efforts. The ongoing dialogue between market actors and the state has resulted in a more equitable distribution of profits at different stages in the process. State safety regulations have thus far been shifted to independent laboratories. Banks and insurance companies have slowly begun making inroads into the industry, despite federal prohibition.
The law was conceived as a social justice remedy, but the bulk of the legal and regulatory activity surrounds cannabis marketplace management. This has been characterized by concerns for black market diversion, producer/processor profits, and a hands-off approach to safety regulation. Minor cannabis violations as a pathway to criminal justice system involvement have been reduced substantially but disproportionate enforcement upon racial/ethnic minorities continues.
Locate the Document
Jensen, E. L., & Roussell, A. (2016). Field observations of the developing legal recreational cannabis economy in Washington State. International Journal of Drug Policy, 33, 96-101.